House Clearing: To Clear or Not to Clear

What should you do — if and when — you hear that dreaded “Bump in the Night” that awakens you from a sound sleep? There are things that must be considered as you try to clear the cobwebs from your mind. Unfortunately, you will not be at your analytical or physical best until you become more fully awake.

Depending on your age and health, your response time may be immediate. However, for others, it may take many seconds or even minutes to elapse before they are capable of life-altering decisions and actions. Certainly training, both physically and mentally, will help tremendously. Most people, however, don’t take the time to train.

Man aiming an AR-15 in a home defense situation
Use cover and concealment, and practice movement inside the home.

If they make a decision to defend themselves, their home, and loved ones, they probably bought a gun, shot it once, and have it in the nightstand with the ammo locked away. More than likely, they have also (according to statistics) not taken any training and have no idea what to do. That is assuming they are not frozen in fear.

Even the best of the best in our military operate by the mantra that, “You will fight the way you train!” As an instructor, it baffles me that those who need training the most are the least inclined to take advantage of the availability of classes. I have good friends that have threatened to get a gun and take some lessons for years.

However, even with rising crime and my offer of free training, after many years they still have not acted. The only excuse they offer is they are busy! How busy can you be to avoid learning how to save your life?

There are others who invest the time to receive some training — unfortunately, only enough to be a danger to themselves. They get the basics but do not realize their limitations and attempt to do something above their level of training. Let me relate that to the subject at hand — being awakened by the bump in the night.

Home Defense Plan

Because he took some training and has read an article or two, Doofus gets out of bed, secures his loaded firearm, puts on his electronic hearing protection (see: Home Defense: When Something Goes Bump in the Night). At this point, we need to have some information before we can proceed.

Woman crouched behind a bed holding a flashlight and pointing a revolver with a green laser
Good cover and concealment, a light to identify the target, and a laser to ensure good hits.

Is it a house or apartment? Is he alone or are there others in the residence? If so, have they been trained or even discussed what actions to take? Is the home one or multiple stories? Is there a dog, and is it inside or out? What is the layout of the structure? All that information influences what one’s actions might be.

So, for this article, I will set a very specific scenario. You are alone (no people or pets) in a larger (around 2,000 Sq. Ft.) single story home on a large one-acre lot. Unfortunately, you left your cell phone on the charger in your kitchen, with no land line in your bedroom… Dumb!

The first problem to solve is to determine what your course of action will be before you do anything. Those of you who have read my column know that I recommend you get out of bed, put on your glasses, especially if you need them to see the front sight, and don a good set of electronic hearing protection, preferably a set with Bluetooth. This bit of advice will increase your ability to hear and identify someone sneaking around. More importantly, if shots are fired, it will protect your hearing and ability to function.

Pro Ears 300 Electronic Hearing Muffs
Even with a secondary form of hearing protection, electronic muffs will allow you to hear conversation and commands around you.

Shots fired in a small, enclosed space such as a room or hallway, will have the disorienting effect of a flashbang grenade. This may render anyone with unprotected hearing momentarily incapacitated. If your headset has Bluetooth, ensure you are monitoring the conversation, which you should be having with a police dispatcher.

Now pay very close attention, do not attempt to clear your house! Even if you went through some shooting school’s ‘shoot house.’ This is real, with the potential of real bullets coming at you. You are alone, without back up, and surely you do not want to get killed. Without teammates, you can’t cover all the possible points evil may lurk.

My advice, once again, is to find the most defensible place in your master suite, with good cover and concealment, and wait for the intruders to come to you. Stay quiet. Don’t issue a challenge, rack the shotgun, or go out to the balcony and fire some shots in the air. If you do, you have relinquished your most precious ally, surprise.

The M1 Carbine with light, red dot, 3- round magazine, and bayonet
Always the author’s first choice. The M1 Carbine with light, red dot, 30-round magazine, and bayonet.

The bad guys should not know where you are until they see your muzzle flash. Wait for law enforcement to arrive and let them clear the house, they are trained to do that. Remember to stay in communication with them until you have eyes on each other.

Once you have made visual contact, remember to secure your weapon, or set it down. Show them your hands, be respectful, and whatever you do, don’t approach the police with a firearm in your hand. Follow their commands, and be appreciative of their service. As stated, this is what I do, and how I would act. It is also what I teach my students.

As stated, moving about a building when someone else may be in it with a weapon is a very dangerous task, and should not be taken lightly. For those of you that may have seen too many John Wick movies, here are some tips that might prevent you from committing an act that is tantamount to suicide. First, choose an appropriate firearm.

Searching your house for that unidentified bump in the night with bear spray and a baseball bat, as reader suggested in a response to one of my articles, is not a smart idea — no matter what he thinks. That means equipping yourself correctly — prior to the need to execute — is of paramount importance. So, let’s review the three main formats of firearms: handguns, shotguns, and rifles.

Make your choice based on your ability and the projectiles that you might be firing. Are they capable of going through the walls in your house, and hitting your neighbors or the cows in the barn?

Colt Government 1911 with Crimson Trace Laser Grips, right profile
A good choice — if you choose a handgun — would be this custom Colt Government 1911 with Crimson Trace Laser Grips.


Let’s review the choices. Pistols are a lightweight, popular choice for personal defense. However, they are difficult to learn to shoot accurately under stress. The truth is, very few people take the time to become proficient.


The next popular alternative — according to many — would be a shotgun. Shotguns have much better stopping power than handguns. However, shotguns take as much or more training and practice than handguns and require two hands.


Rifles are the less-common option, because they are significantly more powerful than most guns in home situations. That being said, my preferred and recommended choice is from this category, the M1 Carbine (see: What’s the Best Gun for Home Defense? It’s not a Handgun, Shotgun, or AR-15…). It is of paramount importance to remember that whichever weapon you choose, you must be proficient using it with both hands, strong and weak side. That way, you can use whichever side will keep you the most concealed.

Infographic showing the danger of trying to clear a house alone

All that said, let us assume for this exercise that you are using a handgun.

Keep a hand-held flashlight (with a lanyard) next to your weapon of choice. Many prefer to have a flashlight attached to the frame of the firearm. I am not one of those, except on long guns. Handheld lights give you options that attached lights do not. Again, an attached light is a good feature to have on a long gun, but it will not replace the hand-held light.

To identify a possible target (without violating safety rule number one) and temporarily blinding him by flashing your light at his eyes with the goal of disorienting them, you must have a separate handheld light. Aim the light at the head. Turn it on for only a moment (a flashlight with a temporary-on switch is preferable). Be aware that you need a flashlight with at least 50 Lumens to temporarily disorient an attacker at night.

Grip mounted laser sights are also an option that I highly recommend. They will allow you to see where your firearm is pointed without having to use the sights to aim. This can be very helpful if you don’t have your corrective glasses on.


Now, a quick note on tactics. Carry your firearm in a firm, two-handed, compressed ready position, always pointed where you are looking. That allows you to react more quickly and provides better retention than when you have your arms extended. Make sure your stance is a stable fighting stance and never cross your feet as you move as it will make you unstable and your accuracy and balance will be compromised.

Ed LaPorta holding a revolver in the two-handed, Compressed High Ready position, with a flashlight on a lanyard
A firm, two-handed, Compressed High Ready position should always be pointed where you are looking with flashlight (on a lanyard).

Fatal Funnels

Probably my most important tip… avoid the fatal funnel. Hallways and doorways are similar. They are a narrow passages or choke points — that your adversary will be expecting you to come through, making them what is referred to as a fatal funnel. If you must negotiate a hallway, walk on one side and never down the middle.

Understand, hallways present some of the more difficult, dangerous, and dynamic areas to clear. At some point, you will be forced to turn your back on an area you have not yet cleared. That is unjustifiably dangerous and will most probably get you killed. That’s why my advice is simply, “Don’t do it!” Stay safe, train often and practice, practice, practice!

The author does not support house clearing in a defensive scenario, but some do. What do you think? Do you have any other home defense tips? Share your thoughts in the Comment section.

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